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Adaptive Ability

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"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change."
Leon C. Megginson, often misattributed to Charles Darwin

You know the old saying "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger"? This is the dire half-dragon version of that.

The Adaptive Ability is a power to adapt to any power used against it. Hit this enemy with a fireball? Next time it's immune to fire. Same with any Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors attack. Cut it, it now has armor. Psychic powers, it now has mindshields. A long fall might give it wings. Try to Tele-Frag it? Now warping into where it is will redistribute you.

Logic would dictate the "easy" way to beat it is to use an overwhelming attack to begin with. However, this goes against most heroic codes, so by the time they've slowly cranked up the power of their attacks, the villain has "adapted" quite a bit.

Beings with an Adaptive Ability are very often Social Darwinists, if they're not mindless monsters. When combined with a sufficient Healing Factor, it can effectively make them invincible.

The result is It Only Works Once. The good guys will easily be convinced that Evil Evolves. The functional opposite is Power Copying. Compare and with Energy Absorption and Feed It with Fire, where the defender is actually powered by being attacked (with "energy" and fire, respectively). One subtrope is Acquired Poison Immunity. A creature with this ability has a high chance of being an Ultimate Life Form. See also Adaptive Armor.

If you were looking for a character in an adapted work with an ability they didn't have in the original, see Adaptational Badass.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the climax of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency (Part 2 of the series overall), the last remaining Pillar Man, Kars uses the Red Stone of Aja combined with a modified Stone Mask to evolve into what's described as the Ultimate Life Form. In this state, he has the power of the entire biosphere at his whim, able to transform his entire body or parts of it into that of every species of animal in existence. He is effectively immune to every possible means of physical attack because he could simply change into a resistant form before it even hit him; the only feasible way to stop him is to completely destroy every cell of his body. Even when thrown into an active volcano, where he actually does take damage (since there's no living thing in the world that has adapted to survive being hurled into magma for very long), Kars languishes only a little while before he creates a shell of sponge-like armor constantly producing pockets of air to insulate him from the immense heat and prevent the magma from making direct contact. Critically, he can create Hamon as intense as the surface of the Sun, e.g. when he struck Joseph's leg with a Hamon-infused blow, Stroheim described the effect as Joseph's flesh being liquefied and vaporizing almost instantly. Ironically, his awesome power swiftly becomes his doom; when his Hamon comes in contact with the Red Stone directly, it is magnified immensely, generating a concentrated beam firing down into the magma chamber that causes the volcano to undergo an eruption. Unable to stop his velocity in time, Kars is ejected beyond the atmosphere where his body 'adapts' and turns into an inanimate husk of organic flesh and hard minerals to survive in the vacuum of space, all while begging for death that will never to come to his immortal self until his mind eventually goes silent from the sheer boredom.
  • In the Shibuya Arc of Jujutsu Kaisen, those with the "Ten Shadows" cursed technique of the Zen'in Family are capable of summoning various shikigami — one of which is very, VERY DANGEROUS. This shikigami is known as Eight-Handled Sword Divergent Sila Divine General Mahoraga, known more simply as Mahoraga. How it does its power adapting is both unique and terrifying. It adapts to results of attacks in general, and not specific techniques or skills. In a nutshell, it can resist all slashing attacks once it recovers from a few cuts, resist all flames once bombarded by fire once, and so on so forth. As long as the wheel above its head finishes its turning, nothing is capable of killing it. Note that not ONE Zen'in has managed to tame the beast, not even Megumi himself, who only summoned it as the equivalent of a suicide bomb. This is the same monster that killed a Gojo, with their spatial manipulation capable of destroying Special Grade Curses. Just one shikigami. It takes the King of Curses's Domain Expansion to finish off the abomination, and that's after narrowly avoiding its other weapon specialized in exterminating curses.
  • YuYu Hakusho: Kuro Momotaro's body possesses the ability to memorize the damage of any attack that hits him, while his weapons, the Steaming Spheres, heal him from that damage, and give him the power to overcome it. In his fight with Hiei, this works two times. The third time, Hiei finds a technique that kills his opponent before he can acquire further immunity.
  • Many of the enemies in Saint Seiya are fond of declaring that they could not be hit by a technique once they have already seen it. Given our heroes' reliance on Stock Footage finishing moves, this seems like it would be a downright crippling handicap for them.
  • Shishio from Rurouni Kenshin has a non-supernatural version of this with him being perceptive enough to counter just about any move he's seen or heard of. He shows off his confidence with this ability against sword techniques by non-chalantly stopping the sword between his index finger, middle finger, and thumb. Kenshin finds this out the hard way when his use of Ryu Sho Sen in front Shishio early in the arc comes back to bite him.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • Anyone with Saiyan blood will receive large increases in strength upon recovering from near-fatal injuries. The Saiyans are the embodiment of Nietzsche's famous quote. If they are near-death for whatever reason, when they are recovered, they will come back stronger. This also works with actual death, provided there's a way to come Back from the Dead afterward. A few enemies were too powerful for this to matter much, though. In the manga version of Dragon Ball Super, Future Trunks theorizes that this Saiyan ability yields diminishing returns over time, as in the manga version of his arc, he, Goku, and Vegeta get injured and healed several times and the strength increase is negligible.
    • Dragon Ball Z Chou Saiya Densetsu had this implemented: If a Saiyan character won a battle with 5 or less HP remaining, they would gain a level immediately no matter what.
    • Goku's adaptive ability allows him to become immune to almost any technique he has seen at least once. Like Shishioh, it's because he innately knows how to counter them. This is best seen with his fight against Cell, where all Cell's copied techniques fail to harm Goku.
    • Since Cell was partially cloned from Saiyan cells, he has this ability as well. In fact, the combined abilities to self-destruct + regenerate From a Single Cell + come back stronger from a near-death experience is quite dangerous.
    • In Dragon Ball Z: The Return of Cooler, after his original body is all but destroyed, Cooler's mind merges with a sentient super-computer/space-ship called the Big Gete Star. The ship rebuilds him as a robot, and now, thanks to the ship's enormous resources, whenever Cooler's body is damaged, the ship simply repairs his body or fabricates a new one with whatever vulnerabilities it learned about removed. This comes to a head when the computer decides Cooler's main flaw is that there's only one of him. Cue enormous army of Meta-Coolers, averting Conservation of Ninjutsu in that each copy is equally as strong as the original.
    • Goku Black from Dragon Ball Super possess an enhanced version of the Saiyan's power-up ability in that any damage caused to him will instantly cause him to become stronger. His powers have gone from being as strong as Super Saiyan 3 Goku to being able to No-Sell Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan Vegeta in his base form before unlocking his Super Saiyan Rose transformation that handily curb stomps him. And this is only the start of a series of power-ups that he obtains.
    • Hit can improve his Time Stands Still ability when facing opponents powerful enough to overcome its current limits.
    • Ganos' True Form works in the exact opposite way of Hit: his techniques don't improve, but he constantly gains strength, speed and resistance as he fights against a strong opponent.
    • In Dragon Ball Super: Broly, Broly is a mutant with a more advanced version of the Saiyan adaptability. He can make himself become more powerful during battle if he is being overwhelmed by his current opponent, though there is a limit on how powerful he can become this way before he needs to rely on regular training or the standard Saiyan power-up after severe injury. Also, each time he unlocks a new Super Mode, his mutant adaptability starts up again to maximize that form's power unless he's overwhelmed too fast for it to take full effect.
  • The D-Reaper of Digimon Tamers showed an impressive capability for evolution (then again, it operated like a quantum computer); Originally, it just killed by touching. Then it developed "agents", foot soldiers who kept damaging attacks away from it. These agents then got more and more specialized; some were gunners, others anti-air units, others were scouts, melee fighters, defense specialists, etc. Upon a debilitating EMP attack, it then integrated all of these capabilities into one massive being and overwhelmed the signal. Ultimately, it was considered to be invincible so the only way they could deal with it was to turn back time to regress it to a more primitive state, which means that it remained very much alive.
  • The Evolutionary Invasion Objects in Nobunagun rapidly create new species based on their experiences from past battles. After Nobunagun shoots down a whole battalion of them, the next one they fight has tough armor that her bullets can't penetrate.
  • In Magic Knight Rayearth, the monster Atalante can do this. (What happens when you decide that overwhelming force is the way to go... after you've let it adapt way too much already? Very bad things.)
  • One villain in one Tenchi Muyo! manga series had this power. Luckily for Tenchi, it turns out that Lighthawk Wings were much too powerful to copy.
  • Taken to an annoying degree with Naraku from Inuyasha. He rarely shows up, preferring to attack through subordinates, but when he does, he's always too powerful to take down with whatever attack was effective against him last time. One has to wonder why Sango and Miroku even bother to come along with Inuyasha, as their attacks eventually become utterly useless against Naraku, and they're pointlessly risking their lives.
  • Byakuran in Reborn! (2004) uses this to an extent. He just doesn't wait until someone uses a certain tactic against him, he simply communicates with himself in alternate dimensions and links their minds together to make himself Crazy-Prepared for anything.
  • Nurarihyon from Gantz had this as his power. In addition to adapting to become immune to attacks, he could also beat fighters at their own game by Bigger Stick adaptation. It turns out that he can't adapt to attacks that he can't see coming. The Gantz combatants snipe him to death.
  • Bleach:
    • Every time he became injured or close to death, the Hogyoku gave Aizen a new form to counter it. At least until the Hogyoku got sick of it and withdrew its support.
    • Yhwach's Schrift allows him to assess everything that's thrown at him and predict accordingly. Haschwalth, then Yhwach himself, both assert that, once Yhwach has seen all that his opponent is capable of (or even what they will do in the near future), defeating him is next to impossible.
    • Mayuri Kurotsuchi reveals in the Vandenreich arc that he modified his Bankai to give it this ability. After gathering information on an enemy, it "gives birth" to a creature most suited to fighting it. However, this creature is limited by the data Mayuri gathered beforehand; when he used it against Pernida, the creature was immune to Pernida's primary ability which he had been using almost exclusively, but was swiftly destroyed when he resorted to an entirely different form of attack, which rather insultingly was just the standard Quincy reishi bow and arrows.
    • Sternritter "D" of "The Deathdealing" Askin Nakk Le Vaar has this as part of his Poisonous Person powers; by taking in a large amount of the substance he intends to make lethal, he can no longer be killed by said substance because he can adjust his resistance to it. It also works wonders for defense in that he tanks his opponent's attacks before adjusting his resistance to their Reiatsu, thus rendering all subsequent attacks useless.
    • Urahara Kisuke's bankai has the ability to dissect and modify anything it wishes. When used defensively, it can take something damaged and make it stronger, and help it recover from or even resist whatever damaged it in the first place. Combined with his analytical mind, which enables him to counter any ability he's adjusted to, this makes him an extremely adaptable opponent and nigh-impossible to beat if you fail to do so in your first attempt.
  • In El-Hazard: The Magnificent World, Ifurita seems to become immune anytime she's hit with a magic attack. And then she uses it on you...
  • Toriko:
    • Gourmet Hunters have this due to being infused with Gourmet Cells as well as their personal abilities. Most of them have Acquired Poison Immunity due to this.
    • Later on, the "Enbu" martial art is introduced, which allows to synchronize every single cell in the user's body so that the few that are most capable of handling a given task are "copied" by all the others. For example: some cells handle the effects of high gravity better than others, so if all cells copy the behavior of those ones, you can ignore a gravity 10 or 100 times higher than normal.
  • Kira Yamato with his Ultimate Coordinator abilities in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED. With his increased thought process speed and reflexes, he could reprogram his Gundam's Operation Systems to optimal efficiency matching his environment and situation, in mid-battle.
  • Played with in a strange way in the 2003 Astro Boy series. Astro was built with the ability to evolve and adapt to any situation making him potentially one of the strongest Robots every created. However his reluctance to fight despite being pushed into it means he never fulfills his potential. He gains all his staple abilities (jetpack flight, a finger laser and an arm canon) within the first handful of episodes and never evolves any further than that because he never needs to.
  • One-Punch Man:
    • Garou has the ability to heal and grow stronger every time he is defeated. By fighting Saitama, he eventually becomes a nigh Physical God. Spoofed when Saitama continues to crush him, and his body decides that he can't evolve any further, so he starts devolving with each attack until he returns to ordinary human levels.
    • In the manga, Saitama shows a similar ability in that Awakened Garou causes him to fight all out and rapidly become stronger far faster than Garou can.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: The 11th Angel, Iruel, is a microscopic collective that evolves extremely rapidly in response to any stimulus as it spreads, making it nigh-impossible to combat. It's eventually defeated by having the MAGI simulate for it a situation in which the optimal evolution was to die, tricking the Angel into killing itself.
  • In Stealth Symphony, this is protagonist Jig's main power, combined with Catch and Return: Any attack targeted at him done with intent to harm him will be automatically caught and nullified by a backpack-like device stuck to his back, which will then generate the same type of attack at double power back at the attacker. In spite of how overpowered this sounds, however, it has a number of loopholes, which Jig's enemies quickly learn to exploit.
  • In Fairy Tail, Wall Eehto has the ability to Enemy Scan his foes and then alter his own body or create minions that capitalized on those weaknesses. He himself went so far as to permanently alter his body so he could negate and even absorb his own Logical Weakness to electricity. However, his minions can each only be specialized to one opponent at a time, leaving them vulnerable to said opponents switching up, and Wall himself can be blindsided by attacks too fast for him to analyze in time which leads to his death when Laxus hits him with a lightning attack with properties he's not immune to and only has enough time to go Oh, Crap! before it tears him apart.
  • In the Super Robot Wars: Original Generation OVA, the SRX and ATX teams have to deal with the Bartolls, AI-driven mecha designed to adapt to whatever had defeated them. The machines would react faster and faster, even develop barriers to counter attacks. After being pushed to the Godzilla Threshold early on, the two teams decide to make a push towards the space factory making them in order to find what's driving them and stop them.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • The Slivers' more prominent traits were their fast evolution rate, adapting to overcome anything thrown at them. However, what made them so dangerous (both in the story and in game) was their species trait of sharing their adaptations with all other slivers in proximity. However, in-game, the slivers' abilities were conferred onto Slivers on all sides, so a Sliver Mirror Match could turn out deadly. Not to mention that there are some slivers with negative effects thrown in just to counter all-Sliver decks.
    • The Phyrexians are half-mechanical monstrosities who constantly seek to improve themselves. In the novel Time Streams, Phyrexian leader Kerrick uses this ability, coupled with the fact that he lives in a fast-time bubble, to stay several steps ahead of Urza.
    • The Evolve keyword causes a creature to get a +1/+1 counter whenever their controller plays a creature that has higher power and/or toughness. In other words, it grows bigger in response to a bigger creature arriving.
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse villain Omnitron has a card called Adaptive Plating Subroutine. After getting hit by an attack, he becomes immune to damage of that type. Thankfully when he gets hit with a different type he switches immunities to the new type, so he is only ever immune to one type of damage at a time.

    Comic Books 
  • The DCU:
  • Marvel Universe:
    • Lots of anti-super robots: later models of the mutant-hunting Sentinels (especially in the Bad Future of Days of Future Past), the Fury (from Captain Britain), and the Shiva series.
    • X-Men:
      • The appropriately named Darwin has this as his mutant power — he will immediately mutate whatever he needs to survive. Immerse him in water and he'll grow gills, burn him and he becomes fireproof, poison him and his body chemistry shifts to neutralize it, etc. It's really too bad that it only happens as an unconscious survival mechanism; with control over that power, he'd be damn near omnipotent. It should be noted that his powers don't always give him the ability needed to win a fight, only to survive. When faced with the Hulk, he gained the ability to teleport several states away. An X-Factor (2006) tie-in to Secret Invasion has a Skrull describe his race's Voluntary Shapeshifting as an adaptive ability similar to Darwin's.
      • Random, another Marvel mutant, whose other power is turning his hands into guns.
      • Another X-Man, Lifeguard, gets whatever power is needed to save someone else and only "someone else". The power does nothing to help if Lifeguard's own life is the one in danger.
    • There is a robot appropriately named the Super-Adaptoid who does this by way of Power Copying. In a Fantastic Four comic, it's defeated by Ben Grimm a.k.a. the Thing, who is his normal human self at the time, but wearing a suit that still gives him Super Strength. Ben Grimm tricks the Adaptoid into copying his normal human self, then uses the suit's power to punch the Adaptoid out in one blow.
      • An early X-Men comic during the Mimic's brief tenure as a hero pits him against the Super-Adaptoid, who has already perfected the abilities of The Avengers. After beating everyone else, including Professor Xavier, the Adaptoid fights the Mimic to a standstill until the Mimic throws the match and psychically convinces the Super-Adaptoid to copy his powers. The Mimic's own power is to copy other people's powers, just like the Super-Adaptoid. The attempt to copy that power exceeds the Super-Adaptoid's capacity to duplicate. The feedback also temporarily shuts down the Mimic's powers.
    • Ultimate Marvel:
      • In The Ultimates, the Hulk has this to a degree — he has adapted to environments as extreme as the (simulated) surface of Venus. This is also the reason why his condition can't be cured — his body adapts to whatever agent is used to prevent the change. Mainstream Hulk has this too, but to a lesser degree and with less consistency since it's one of his lesser known/used/liked powers. He's been shown adapting the ability to breathe under water and survive the vacuum of space for extended periods.
      • In Ultimate X-Men, Wolverine is implied to be the same; in addition to regenerating damaged tissue, his Healing Factor can modify his physiology to compensate for life-threatening injuries. For example, decapitating him results in him developing the ability to directly oxygenate the blood for his brain through his skin. When his severed head is put in a total vacuum, he goes into stasis until brought out. Ultimate Nick Fury theorizes that Wolverine's mutant power is less "Healing Factor" and more "survive anything". Well, that works until Magneto kills him by simultaneously destroying every cell in his body in Ultimatum.
    • Lunatik, Marvel's even-further-over-the-top parody of Lobo, has been adapting for six hundred million years, having started as a microbe and eventually eating all life on his homeworld.
    • The alien Kree were stuck in an evolutionary dead end, unable to adapt or mutate; so after trying a number of less-than-ideal solutions (breeding hybrids with other species led to social stratification and prejudice, setting off a mutagenic bomb led to — well, a huge frikkin' bomb that killed half their population and left most of the rest sick and dying) they eventually turned themselves into the Ruul, who can self-adapt to any condition. Later writers seem to have undone most of this for no reason other than Status Quo Is God.
    • One of Spider-Woman Jessica Drew's original powers is that she becomes immune to any poison after being affected by it once.
    • The short-lived villain Freak from Spider-Man: Brand New Day becomes horribly deformed after an accidental chemical bath, but as a result is able to form a cocoon around himself when he dies and regenerate with an adaptation against whatever killed him. Such deaths include being set on fire (resulting in a leathery hide), getting shot (armour plating), and strangulation (thicker musculature, particularly around the neck), but he is always just as hideous as before, and all he does with his powers is try to find more drugs to snort up.
    • The original run of New Warriors has a character with this ability named Helix. He grows spikes, blades, armor plates, whatever he needs against whatever is being used against him, but the adaptations quickly fade if he isn't being attacked. He's initially an antagonist, then is found to only be afraid and lashing out, and starts staying with the team. However, he only lasts a few issues before leaving, probably because he would almost inevitably win any fight he got into, making the Warriors too strong.
  • Spawn's living symbiotic costume had this ability. After getting whupped by some angels, Spawn retreats to lick his wounds. His costume regenerates from tatters into a new form with bigger spikes and gauntlets, and the next time he meets the angels the fight goes more his way. It had the unfortunate side effect of making the suit more powerful until it almost ate him, though.

    Fan Works 
  • In Co-op Mode, as usual for Gamer fanfics, James has this, and so do those in his Party. So far, he has gained Acquired Poison Immunity, Damage Reduction to both Elemental Powers and physical attacks, and even a partial resistance to Clockblocker's power!
    Quote for <Time Resistance>: "BULLSHIT!"
  • Here Be Dragons: Taylor's power starts out as a minor version of this, logical, due to possessing Lung's transformative powers. Later, Contessa forces a second trigger event, giving her a far more potent version of this ability.
  • Freddie gets this power in iFight Crime With Victorious. Useful, considering his number 1 aggressor aka Sam Puckett now has superhuman strength to torture him with.
  • Taken to its logical extreme and closing off all loopholes along the way: The Ranma ˝ fanfic Relentless, where the Reikoku has this ability. It's an unusual take as in the story, the Reikoku adapts to the characters' techniques.
  • In The Bridge, Enjin boasts that whatever kills him makes him stronger. After Kaiser Ghidorah breaks several of his bones including his neck and then throws him into a river, he crawls out and instantly heals with his body reinforced so it won't happen again. After Monster X hits him several times, his skin toughens up so that X hurts his own hands when he tries to punch him. The only way to beat him is to knock him into the air so that he cannot draw strength from the ground and regenerate, then destroy his core.
  • The Games We Play:
    • Hydras are an entire Grimm species with this as their main ability. They develop resistances and countermeasures to whatever hurts them. As a result, with few exceptions, Hydras are either killed young when a large number of Huntsmen fall on them like a tonne of bricks before they can develop any useful resistances, or not at all. As different Hydra adapt to deal with different threats, Mix-and-Match Critters is the result on stronger Hydras.
    • Gilgamesh has an active version of this. Named "Intelligent Design", he is not limited to reacting to harm but can actively transform himself to gain the abilities needed to fight his enemies.
  • In the Alternate Universe Worm fanfic Intrepid, Anne's power set basically allows her to fully understand someone's power with a touch and then use a power to counter it. Such as using a cold wave to get rid of Lung's pyrokinesis and a teleportation power to get rid of Lung far enough to where he'll cool down.
  • In the Final Fantasy VII fanfic, Cissnei's Path, Jenova possesses this as its key trait, making it hard to put down.
  • One More Trigger: The Slaughterhouse Nine includes multiple Tinkers, allowing them to devise countermeasures for anything used against them. After Taylor takes down the non-Brute members with batrachotoxin venom bugs, Bonesaw makes the survivors immune to it, and builds pyrethrum bombs to take out the swarm.. Taylor also glued all Mannequin's joints together last time, so he crafts non-stick surfaces for them.
  • A RWBY Zanpakuto:
    • Ulquiorra's body adapts to threats whenever he heals. For example, when his head gets damaged, his brain redistributes itself through his body so that he cannot suffer brain damage anymore. When his eyes get damaged, his body sprouts eyes all over. He still loses because healing and adapting drains his energy until he can't do it anymore; it just takes a lot of work to get that far.
    • The Hogyoku grants Aizen "Intelligent Design", the ability to actively alter himself to counter his enemies.
  • Frieza's new bodyguard in Frieza A Simple Act of Mercy grows stronger against anything that injures her, including diseases and poisons. This allows her to become as strong as Frieza was on Namek after only a couple months training against him.
  • In the Freedom City fanfic The Gathering by Davies, Overpower has the Nemesis power. At one point during the Gladiator Games, she acquires illusion powers and realises she's supposed to use them to avoid the fight, by making it look like her Me's a Crowd opponent has broken the rules. At another, her powers simply shut down when faced with an opponent who also has an adaptive powerset.
  • In the Mutants & Masterminds fanfic How a Street Thug Killed a God, one of the Nominal Heroes the main character fights is Adept, who can change his body to gain new physical traits, automatically going for the simplest solution to the problem at hand. It gets turned against him when he falls into a trap that causes him excruciating pain via psychic damage. He tries to adapt an immunity to psychic damage, and the GM asks him if he is absolutely sure he wants to do that. He says yes, and his power grants him the desired immunity by lobotomizing him into a drooling vegetable. Since he now lacks the brain function to tell his body to change back, he's stuck that way permanently.
  • RWBY: Rose In Black: the Crescent Rose symbiote gradually becomes more resistant to fire with repeated exposure, particularly as Roman and Neo try to kill it using Fire Dust, going from destabilizing when a burning tree falls in front of Ruby to shrugging off one of Cinder's flame blasts with no harm whatsoever.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The mutant geckos in Aberration are able to adapt into new challenges; they can become resistant to rat poison (which was able to knock them out), grow gills when put underwater and even develop sharp spines when grabbed by hand.
  • The Xenomorphs from Alien, as they have the ability to breed with any organism and take genetic material from them, thus adapting to whatever environment the organism in question comes from.
  • The enemy in the film Evolution (2001) and its Animated Adaptation, Alienators.
  • In Shin Godzilla, Godzilla quickly mutates to counteract new challenges, acclimating to consume radioactive waste, "evolving" stronger legs to walk on land, and gaining a Beam Spam attack to defend itself.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • X-Men: First Class: Darwin's ability involves his body making whatever changes necessary to keep him from dying in whatever environment he's in, such as growing gills while underwater.
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past: The Sentinels in the Bad Future have the ability to adapt their structure, powers and strategy to counter the mutants, allowing them to win in almost any scenario. They got the ability from 50 years of research on Mystique's DNA. The only way to beat them is using time travel to prevent their creation.

  • In Worm the villain Crawler has this power along with a massive Healing Factor. Whenever he suffers an injury, he regenerates in seconds and becomes slightly more resistant to that type of injury as well as more dangerous overall. He deliberately throws himself into harm's way by fighting powerful enemies in order to become stronger. At one point, he's exposed to a nanothorn attack that takes most of his body apart on a molecular scale... which causes the destroyed portion of his body to grow back with biological nanomachines that can disintegrate anything he touches. The heroes only manage to kill him by carpet bombing the area he's in with super-villain made bombs which turn his entire body into glass at once, leaving nothing left to do any adapting.
    • Its sequel Ward, introduces Goddess, who can make herself immune to power affects after "tuning" to them. Not as nearly effective as Crawlers, since it takes time and doesn't provide protection from physical force.
  • Titan from Super Powereds. His power responded to frustration so that not only would he become tougher if he was ever actually hurt by a physical attack, but he would also become stronger if he ever failed to overcome a physical challenge like lifting a heavy object. He also reveals that his son Hershel inherited a different version of the same power. When kids were bullying him in school, Hershel's power manifested as his Superpowered Alter Ego Roy, who is stronger, more muscular, taller, and more social than Hershel. Everyone thinks that Hershel is just a shifter, until Titan reveals that Roy is a manifestation of Hershel's ideal self. This comes up, when Roy hits his physical limit, unable to lift 800 lb weights no matter how many times he's able to lift 750 lb weights. Titan explains that Hershel needs to start pushing himself in training as well, allowing his adaptive ability to raise Roy's Cap. For Titan, this also applies to superpowers. Certain abilities no longer affect him (as much) after the first exposure. For example, when Aether tries to phase him through a wall, it doesn't work, because Titan once fought a criminal super with a similar power, so his body adapted to counter it. He could temporarily disable it, but he has to constantly focus on it. Healing Hands also don't work on him for the same reason, but he has a limited Healing Factor to compensate. He specifically told the government to keep a certain super on-hand with the power to cause fatal brain aneurysms in order to take Titan down, if he ever turned rogue. It would only work once, though, as a botched attempt would make him immune.
  • In My Sister's Keeper, this reason is used to explain why none of the treatments for Kate's leukemia work more than once.
  • In the Sword of Truth series, the beast from the underworld is said to adapt to prevent one strategy from working on it more than once. Ironically this works to its detriment—while a given strategy only works once, as a creature of chaos its methods and weaknesses are totally random. On at least one occasion, it had the heroes entirely dead to rights, but for the fact its current form dissolved in water, discovered just as it starts to rain.
  • In the novel Meg, blinding the giant shark made it deadlier, as its other senses compensated for its blindness and now it could hunt during the day.
  • In Last and First Men, the Martians do this while fighting the Second Men. Over the course of several thousand years, naturally. The shorter timescale is partly down to the Martians' very unusual biology and partly due to the fact that genetics was very poorly understood when the novel was written. The structure of DNA wouldn't be identified for another quarter century, for example.
  • In Greg Egan's Teranesia, an evolving organism is apparently able to anticipate future challenges and develop appropriately.
  • In Stephen King's The Stand, what made the superflu different from the normal flu (and much deadlier) is its ability to change to fight the antibodies the human organism generates to fight the virus, until your defenses can't stand anymore.
  • This trope is played for tragedy and to kill all remaining hope in Jack Williamson's sci-fi novella With Folded Hands. A man creates a perfect race of robots to cater to humanity and stop them from killing each other after his home planet was wiped out by civil war. It works too well and the robots begin stripping humanity of its freedom, planet by planet. A man uses rhodomagnetics, the force discovered by the creator and what allows the robots their highly advanced functions, to slip under their radar and attempts to assassinate the creator for dooming mankind. He's stopped, and the creator only then realizes what the robots are doing. He jumps from colony to colony, staying ahead of his creation while attempting to create a weapon that will destroy his lifeless homeworld, where the central network is located. He finishes and fires the weapon, only for it to fail. Robots arrive at his residence and inform him that after the assassin, they engineered a way to detect and neutralize rhodomagnetics applied against them, effectively shielding the planet from the weapon. This dashes mankind's only hope to free itself from the robots.
  • The Vord in Codex Alera definitely qualify. When we first run into them, they're a bunch of creepy spiders who spin wax instead of webs. Then there are big warrior beetles, and little spiders that can take over your brain. And that was back before they got scary. They could quickly create entire new species and generate massive numbers of them. They see human knights in armor? Suddenly there are heavily armored humanoids with swords to fight them. Make a wall of shields? Now there are enormous mantises with sickle-arms that can reach over the shields and disembowel you. Oh, you can fly with magic? How about warriors with dragonfly wings. Team up with huge wolf-men? That's okay, we've got a Vord for that too. Build a massive wall just to keep us out? How about a Vord the size of a Gothic cathedral smashing into your wall! Wow, good thing you have that amazing magic that we can't quite seem to get hold of... oh. Nevermind.
  • The Inhibitors in Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space Verse have this ability, there's some interesting character speculation about whether they are really adapting or whether they're downloading countermeasures from an extant database whenever they encounter a new weapon
  • In Dune, the Bene Gesserit (and those trained in their methods like Paul Atreides) have the ability to change their internal chemistry. This makes them immune to poisoning, as they will simply change the composition of the poison to something that is not lethal.
  • The sword of Gryffindor in Harry Potter can't be destroyed; as a weapon made with goblins' special magic and metalwork, it simply takes in the power of whatever it encounters. For example, when in The Chamber of Secrets Harry uses it to kill the basilisk, it becomes imbued with basilisk venom.
  • The Vlagh and its creatures in David Eddings' Dreamers. They adapted to every trick the protagonists use in the previous battles... only to have them devise more. They also forage the battlefield for dropped weapons. Eventually they evolved to the point they had eight arms on some of the creatures... each carrying four bows. This caused the protagonists some anxiety. At least until they saw the creatures using the maces.
  • This is the effect of Mobium in Superheroes Anonymous.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, Fraulein Kreutune has a brain that rapidly absorbs information from her surrounding environment, causing her body to change in response.
  • Release That Witch: The more witches use their magic, the more magical energy they can store within their bodies, and the more they comprehend the world around them and how their magic feeds into it, the more powerful their abilities become. For instance, after Anna understands how heat works at an atomic level, she gains the ability to form her "flames" into any shape she wants, including planes, lines and other geometric shapes.
  • Yggdrasil in Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle can not only gain resistance to attacks used against it, but also grows stronger and faster the more it's attacked. This does have limits, as it will eventually run out of life force if attacked enough, but in its first appearance it has eaten and absorbed the life force of hundreds of other Abyss
  • The Wandering Inn: It's a well-known and studied fact that any kind of prolonged siege, by putting a lot of pressure on the defenders, is likely to result in them rapidly gaining levels and thus fighting back with surprising effectiveness. As a result, it's important to conclude assaults quickly.
  • Fate/Apocrypha: Berserker of Red's Noble Phantasm, Crying Warmonger: Howl of the Wounded Beast, makes him become stronger every time he takes damage. Supplimental material states that if he was summoned as a Saber, Crying Warmonger would also make him immune to or even reflect attacks back after getting hit with them once.
  • All The Skills - A Deckbuilding LitRPG:
    • Arthur's "Empathic Resistance" and "Telepathic Resistance" skills steadily level up as he's exposed to hostile influences. The Mind Singer encounter takes him from Empathic Resistance level 5 to 14.
    • The Master of Body card operates similarly for toughened skin and resistance to damage. Getting beaten to a pulp by his cousin is overall a win for Arthur, as he gains nine levels of toughened skin and twenty levels of blunt force resistance, which also comes with an improved Healing Factor.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alien Worlds (2020): Downplayed. The pentapods of Janus breed by dispersing their eggs on the wind, and the version they grow into depends on what side of their Tidally Locked Planet they land on. Those that land on the sunlit side become well-adapted to the scorching desert, while those on the other side become adapted to the eternal cold and night, allowing the species to dominate the planet.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Cybermen have always had traits of The Assimilator, but this aspect gets focused on in the incarnation introduced in "Nightmare in Silver" (apparently, a fusion of the original Mondasian Cybermen and the newer Cybus Cybermen). Sometimes you'll take a few of them down before they adapt — others, it won't cost them a single unit.
    • "Orphan 55": It turns out that the Dregs have this ability: the weapons carried by Tranquillity Spa's security have to have power randomizers built into them to be effective for sustained fire. They also mutated from breathing oxygen to carbon dioxide as a result of environmental damage done to their planet.
  • Lois & Clark had an alien assassin who not only could adapt to Superman’s powers, but could also develop his own version of said powers.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers
    • The War Zord Cyclopsis acted like this after it was rebuilt by Lokar. In a bit of a subversion, that "evolution" disappeared after the Rangers retreated and when they came back to fight, they knew how to overcome it (rapidly switching tactics). "Overload! Overload! Too many changes!"
    • Hatchasarus was repeatedly destroyed and would reassemble with more bling (though not necessarily directly related to what had killed him before.) He can't be taken down for good until Cardiatron (the giant, floating heart that is its central computer) is destroyed.
  • An episode of The Outer Limits (1995), "The New Breed", has a man infested with Nanomachines programmed to heal and protect his body, which they do mindlessly and efficiently — he nearly drowns and grows gills, he gets beaten up and grows extra layers of bone, and his skin develops poison glands like a jellyfish, so no one can touch him. They also, for some reason, decide that having a limited field of view is a flaw, so they grow an extra pair of eyes in the back of his head.
  • Smallville's version of Doomsday, like his comic counterpart, has this ability; as his "mother" Faora put it, "What kills you makes you stronger".
  • The Replicators from Stargate SG-1 have essentially the same adaptability level as the Borg from Star Trek; they, too, cannot seem to adapt to being shot with a machine gun, until Season 5...Viva La Evolution!
    • Ditto for their cousins the Asurans in Stargate Atlantis, although they are already in humanoid form when they encounter the Atlantis team. In one episode, dozens of Asurans throw themselves at a shield that disintegrates them, until, finally, the rest adapt and are able to pass.
  • Star Trek:
    • The Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation are explicitly described as being able to adapt to anything used against them, so most weapons will only work two or three times before they lose most effectiveness. Melee attacks have a better chance of succeeding, but you're still fighting a cyborg with super-strength. Worf and Data do fine, but a Red Shirt tried to rifle butt a drone and got trounced. Data rampaging in Engineering also got him thrown behind a forcefield eventually, if only because the Queen was in the room.
      • In Elite Force, Seven came up with the IMod (Infinity Modulation Weapon), a weapon that unleashes devastating energy in a single burst (at least against the Borg), and also automatically changes energy signatures. Normal phasers and phase rifles can do the same thing as the IMod, but must be manually changed to new frequencies, will take time as you do said changing, and are limited in power. Human (and alien) imagination being what it is, it's not easy to keep coming up with random frequencies. However, in the first mission of the sequel (taking place in parallel with the Grand Finale of Star Trek: Voyager), the Borg aboard the sphere come up with a counter to the I-MOD by generating an interference field that disables the weapon, forcing you to rely on other weapons and use them sparingly.
      • In the end, the Borg have failed to adapt to only one thing: sheer overwhelming firepower. That said, their adaptive ability means a Borg ship or drone can take far more punishment than they should... And Borg ships are massive.
    • The Federation itself is a milder example than the Borg, but they have been somewhat accurately compared to the Borg before, in both the assimilation aspect and the adaptation. But since the show's protagonists are from the UFP, they are never the villains of the show from a normal perspective. Except for Section 31.
      • Whenever they are faced with a cloaking device that actually cloaks a ship from their sensors, the Federation quickly begins work on adapting sensors.
      • When the USS Odyssey is destroyed and the Defiant later disabled easily by mere Jem'hadar fighters (that later on become little more than cannon fodder) using "some kind of phased polaron beam", the DS9 crew sets about developing countermeasures. Sure enough, without any further fights with the Jem'hadar, the Defiant's shields have been adapted by O'Brien and his teams to block the phased polaron fire, if only for a few shots. After "The Ship", the polaron beams are no longer any more effective than phasers or disruptors.
      • The Breen energy-dampening weapon can easily disable Romulan, Klingon, or Starfleet ships even with shield and ablative armor. For a while the only defense is a modification to the tritium intermix of the warp core—but only Klingon ships have one. At most two episodes after Kira, Odo, Garak, and Damar steal a Jem'hadar fighter being retrofitted with the energy-dampening weapon in "Tacking Into the Wind", Starfleet engineers have worked out how to completely counteract the weapon for Federation and Romulan ships.
      • The entirety of the Federation's fight/contingency against the Borg after the Battle of Wolf 359 is a massive quest to adapt their technology to be able to effectively fight the Borg, adapt their weapons and shields in combat just as the Borg do, and generally out-adapt the Borg just enough to survive and win the day, with overkill being happily accepted. It's actually been hinted at that the Borg keeps attacking the Federation but always backs off instead of going all the way and wiping them out because the Federation keeps coming up with better weapons that they can then later steal and use for themselves, since the Borg can't come up with new inventions on their own.
  • Ultra Series:
    • Kupukupu from Return of Ultraman starts off as a harmless-looking critter in a cage, who ends up being destroyed by humans due to fearing of extraterrestrial life. But a piece of Kupukupu then gets picked up by a child as a souvenir, and that piece ends up growing larger and larger until it forms the monster Kingstron, which then goes on a rampage.
    • Ultraman Max had an extreme version: IF is a monster that can counter anything through Power Copying and Resurrective Immortality. Max blew it apart with the Max Galaxy, it regenerated instantly and fired it right back at him! He never defeated it...because IF cannot be defeated with violence.
    • Zaragas from the original Ultraman, on the other hand, has a more downplayed version. Whenever, it is hit by an attack that does not kill it, Zaragas' body evolves and increases in strength. When Science Patrol blasts it down with a hailstorm of missiles, it sheds its armour and grows dozens of bulb-like organs that amplify its Blinded by the Light abilities to the point where even Ultraman was incapacitated by them.


  • Barbra from Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues gains an adaptive superpower similar in design to Doomsday from The DCU: whenever she dies, she's resurrected with an immunity to whatever killed her.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The epic level D&D monster, the Infernal, has this as a specific power, only able to be affected by a spell once from the same spellcaster.
    • At lower level there is the skindancer, which has pretty good resistance to the last weapon type that struck it, and the last magical energy type that affected it.
    • In the red box edition, the master's level book described the Adapters, who develop a temporary immunity when struck by an elemental attack.
    • In 4th edition, all demon type enemies gain the ability to immediately become resistant to any elemental energy type attack (acid, cold, fire, lightning, thunder) after you hit them with it once. So something that doesn't put them down on the first hit will be much weaker against them the second time.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has the Tyranids:
    "We fought them the first day, and our guns tore through them with ease. We fought them the second day and saw our missiles bounce of a thickened skin they seemed now to bear, so we turned our lances on them. We fought them the third day, and no cursed thing worked!"
    • Even worse: Not just one of them, but at least that entire fleet you are fighting can get that characteristic.
    • The Tau were able to exploit this: by getting their Kroot allies to take on Tyranids in forests, particularly agile but also rather fragile Gaunts were produced that had adapted extremely well to fighting arboreal warriors...then they drew the 'Nids out of the forests and opened up with their usual array of BFGs.
    • This is also believed, both in-universe and out, to be how some Tyranid lifeforms came to be. The psyker-like Zoanthropes are thought to be derived from Eldar psykers, and the extremely resilient Tyrant Guard may have been cultivated from Space Marines.
  • Mechanon is a standard recurring (and overarching) Big Bad from Champions. Each time he is defeated (even if destroyed, he's rebuilt), he returns immune to the last attack that killed him, and often with weapons to which his prior nemesis is particularly vulnerable. If fought long enough, he truly becomes unbeatable.
  • Unsurprisingly, Mutants & Masterminds features a power or two for this. "Adaptation" works like it says. Then there's "Nemesis"- every round you pick one person to be your nemesis, and you get X points worth of powers suited to fighting them (X being based on your power rank). The catch is that while you are free to suggest things, the GM has final say on what you get, and can distribute things however he likes (he could give you one strong useful power, 2 medium-strength, fairly useful powers, 10 weak powers of varying helpfulness...)
  • In Exalted, one Charm the Lunar have allows them to render themselves immune to the first weapon classification to hit them in a scene. This is somewhat mechanically awkward because weapons aren't classified in a way that makes this make sense as it's written (according to some readings, a punch could render you immune to all bludgeoning weapons, or to all martial arts weapons, or to all non-artifact martial arts weapons and so on), but it's the thought that counts.

  • Reidak from the BIONICLE series. Specifically, any power used to defeat him will be ineffective for the next go around (i.e. he gets knocked down by a giant fist of earth and won't feel a thing if it happens again, even if the fist of earth is twice as big). However, the power seems to have a "reset" function after a battle, and unlike Doomsday, he won't be coming back from something that actually kills him.

    Video Games 
  • Resident Evil 6 introduces a new species of B.O.W called the J'avo that can do this, with about a dozen different mutations that can occur depending on if you've been targeting their arm, legs, torso or head. Plus, multiple mutations can occur on the same J'avo, so you can give them two different arm mutations, a head mutation, a torso mutation, and legs mutation. Plus, there's a rare chance of them cocooning themselves to undergo a "Complete Mutation", emerging as a coherent but much tougher variant of B.O.W, with several different outcomes, ranging from the armor-plated Lightning Bruiser Napad to the dart-throwing, wall crawling Strelat.
  • Mr. Freeze, in Batman: Arkham City, is a noteworthy boss for two reasons: the first is that you can't fight him head-on and need to ambush him. The second is that he adapts to the player's tactics, such that the same tricks will not work more than once. If you ambush him from the vents, he'll freeze all of the vents shut. If you attack through the windows, he'll ice them over to make them unbreakable. If you use the electromagnet to attack him, he'll sabotage it and make it inoperable. And so on.
  • Pringer X, the ultimate bonus boss in the remake of Disgaea 2 and Disgaea 4 possesses an ability that makes it completely immune to whatever special attack it was hit by for the rest of the battle. Made more complicated by the fact that when you fight more then one of them at the same time later on, all of them become immune to the attack.
  • Most RPGs have at least one boss that adapts to the elements you attack them with, resulting in a literal Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors as you try to switch the elements of your attacks to be the opposite of your last one or whatever it has shifted to. Can be frustrating if you misstep, because most such bosses only have the one weakness, and the wrong element will usually fully heal the boss (naturally, this variant is called Barrier Change Boss).
  • Chrono Trigger: The Golem defends against the attack type used on it and begins attacking using that type. This trait makes it very dangerous to the unprepared, and also makes it one of the easiest bosses to beat. With the right equipment and the right attacks, it's very easy to force the Golem to use attacks that are very inefficient against you. In a New Game Plus, it's stupidly easy to force Golem to use attacks that heal you. Alternatively, if you have a full range of elemental attacks, the Golem can simply be forced into an endless pattern of elemental charging so long as you never use the same element in succession (assuming you can keep up with the MP cost).
  • Pokémon
    • Porygon2's Conversion2 move will randomly change its type to one that resist the last damage-dealing move that it was hit by. For example, if the last such move was Grass-type, Porygon2 might become Electric-type, Grass-type, Ground-type or Water-type.
    • Kecleon's Color Change ability allows it to take on the typing of every move it's hit by. This serves to handily negate whatever type effectiveness is used against it more than once — except for when it's hit by a Dragon- or Ghost-type move, as those types are weak against themselves, meaning that using such a move on Kecleon actually makes it weaker to these attacks then it was before (it starts off respectively immune and neutral to them). Oops.
    • The ability Download boosts the attack stat of the Pokemon based on which of the defense stats of the opponents is lower.
    • Arceus downplays this in the main games: its Plates can allow it to become any of the series' types, but it can't change it in the middle of the battle. Other works play this trope straighter:
      • In the anime, it can freely change between types on a whim in order to resist or negate any attack it sees coming its way.
      • The Legend Plate in Pokémon Legends: Arceus lets Arceus transform into whatever type will cause its Judgment move to deal the most damage every time it uses it on an enemy, while also prioritizing types that most resist attacks from the target's own type.
    • Variations of the glitch MissingNo. have no type themselves, and therefore take the type of the last Pokémon loaded.
    • Sometimes invoked by players in the more random battle facilities in the series — Battle Tower, Battle Frontier, Battle Subway and Battle Maison — as part of the AI. Jossed by RNG-researching hackers who assert that opponents' sets do not take player Pokémon into account. Some players go well beyond streaks of 50, 100 or 200 victories to attain 1,000 or more wins in a row.
  • The fallen Levant's (One-Winged Angel?) monster form in Jade Cocoon 2: he occasionally gains immunity to the element of the side of the BeastAmulet that's been used to attack him. When this happens, he summons a pair of lesser Divine Beasts of the same element he just immunized himself against and they prevent you from attacking him by becoming the only available targets. Attacks with any other element will damage him as normal, and attacks of the opposite element are particularly effective, but a few turns after the lesser Beasts have both been killed, the cycle repeats. So the fight continues until you've defeated him.
  • Warning Forever has this as its main mechanic: a time attack boss rush where the boss repeatedly comes back stronger in a way that seeks to counter how the player destroyed it in the last round. For example, if it was defeated by having its rear armor destroyed, its next form will have more armor on its rear. It also changes which weapons it adds depending on how effective they were (e.g. if it killed the player using lasers frequently in one round, expect it to have a lot more lasers in the next round).
  • Warlock Nether Protection and Death Knight Acclimation talents in World of Warcraft work somewhat like this. They have a chance to reduce the damage taken from the school of the last spell that hit you.
    • There's also some creatures, notably certain types of Voidwalkers, with an ability like this. Hit them long enough with one spell school and they not only gain an immunity for that type of damage, but can now use an AoE spell of that type.
  • Arcueid from Tsukihime claims such an ability. She was immune to conventional weapons to begin with, and gained immunities to conceptual weapons as they were used to fight her. When Shiki killed her, she was sure he used some obscure far eastern conceptual weapon. In a slight subversion, she can't become immune to that particular ability, either.
    • The manga adaptation gives the same ability to Roa, a vampire (accidentally) created by Arcueid. He demonstrates it in his battle against Ciel - by the end of the fight, her signature Black Key swords have become so ineffective that being impaled by several dozen at once barely phases him.
  • In Nexus Clash, Nexus Champions can do this with their aptly named Tattoo of Adaptation, requiring their would-be killers to bring more than one kind of weapon - or some friends.
  • NetHack: If you manage to kill a red dragon, eat his corpse, and you're immune to fire. The next red dragon's fire breath might damage your equipment, but will not do much damage to you. Same goes for several immunities.
  • This is pretty much the point of the Zerg in StarCraft. Notably, their upgrade building is called the "Evolution Chamber", in which the Overmind pits hundreds of Zerg warriors against each other and only keeps the strong, and is also the fluff explanation for the origin of Banelings. In the campaign of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, approximately half the evolution missions involve Zerg exposed to various environmental hazards (acid pools, lava, experimental nukes...) in order to grant them new abilities. In the other half, the Zerg absorb DNA from creatures they consume.
  • Berserker from Fate/stay night must be "killed" 12 times to make the death stick. What's worse is that after he's died once, he is then permanently immune to whatever it was that killed him. Given how hard it is to kill him even once, this makes him one hell of The Juggernaut. On the other hand, extraordinarily powerful attacks are capable of taking away multiple "lives" in one blow, though such attacks are both rare and difficult in the extreme to perform, even for Servants.
  • In Spore, you edit your creature throughout the cell and creature stages to give them the highest chance of survival.
  • Story-wise, there is a promotional ITEM for Dragon Age II that does this; The Belt of Hindsight. The trailer for this belt says that it analyzes the deaths of its wearers, and develops magic defenses to slightly protect future wearers against what it was unable to block before. Current resistances when obtained by Hawke include Fire, Poison, Stabs, and Witches. Don't ask, just read the obituary on the leather, magically scrawled in lyrium ink.
  • Mockingbird's power in Marvel: Avengers Alliance is to switch to the opposing class of any classed character that attacks her.
  • Mega Man X: This trope is the true source of X's "Limitless Potential"; he was revolutionary in robotics as he had the ability to learn and grow in strength when previous robots had their minds and power levels pre-determined by their creators. Sigma takes interest in his potential, and decides to instigate a reploid revolution in order to evolve reploids to their fullest potential.
  • Jr. Troopa in Paper Mario 64 is a minor version. He starts off pretty incompetent. As the game goes on, however, he will acquire new powers to counter abilities Mario uses against him, combining them together late into the game. That being said, he remains rather incompetent throughout the whole game, as while he can adapt to limit Mario's ability to fight him, Mario keeps gaining more techniques that render him a joke again.
  • In Enemy Infestation, the entire gameplay is based on the fact that the aliens mutate so fast that every mission, the effects of the weapons (except for two) on them are completely unpredictable. Last mission, they dropped from a raygun shot. This mission, the raygun causes the aliens to split in two or grow, while what kills them is pointing a remote at them and clicking. Next mission, the remote does nothing and they need to knocked out by a bug spray... well, you get the idea.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Mechanically, the geth. When a platform is destroyed, the runtimes operating it will return to the main collective if there is a comm buoy in range (hence why Legion can get killed in the Suicide Mission; he tries that but there are no buoys in range). Extrapolating, any info on new tactics and weapons will be returned too, so while they may not have instant immunity like the Borg, they will develop countermeasures much more quickly than any other race which is the crux of the Quarian's problems come the attempt to retake Rannoch; the Geth adapt to their hacking attempts far too quickly to be effective until Admiral Xen makes a breakthrough.
    • Biologically, the vorcha. Roughly humanoid aliens with no abundance of intellect, their bodies contain numerous pockets of undifferentiated cells, allowing each individual vorcha to adapt to new environmental influences. For instance, vorcha that land on higher-gravity worlds will develop stronger bones and muscles to compensate. When the Reapers invade, vorcha prove difficult for them to subdue, as they can adapt to ignore poisoned water supplies, or even Indoctrination.
  • In Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker, the Triangulum Spica has several bodies. Each time one is destroyed, the rest of them become immune to whatever element killed it — even the Infinity +1 Element Almighty.
  • Exploited in Path of Exile. The Elemental Equilibrium passive skill causes enemies hit with elemental damage to gain moderate increased resistance to that element but have their resistances to the other two elements reduced by twice as much.
  • Warframe:
    • The Sentients were designed with the ability to adapt to almost any harmful conditions that they could encounter, with the sole exception being exposure to the Void. They also had a fairly extreme Healing Factor, which meant that if one were to blow of a Sentient's limb, they would grow it back, the severed limb would regrow into a duplicate of the first, and both would now be effectively immune to the weapon you used. Sentients in-game lack this ability due to Void exposure rendering them infertile. When they rebelled against the Orokin, they were only stopped when the Orokin weaponised and deployed the Tenno, who channeled the Void to fight. In gameplay terms, Sentient fighters (Battalysts, Conculysts and Mimics) will gain a 95% damage reduction to the damage type that was most used on it when reduced to certain health thresholds. This forces the player to either bring a varied selection of elements on their weapons, or switch to Operator Mode and blast them with Void Energy to reset their resistances.
    • The Adaptation mod, fittingly enough, grants this to any Warframe that equips it. With it equipped, incoming attacks will grant a stacking damage resistance buff to the player. With careful setup, even the squishiest of Warframes can become quite durable with this mod. The buff is determined by the whichever damage type makes up the majority of the attack (an attack that deals a mixture of Impact, Puncture and Slash will only grant resistance to one, while the other two will continue to deal full damage). The amount of resistance gained is determined by the rank of the mod, not the strength of the attack itself (so rapid-fire, weaker attacks will get you to the cap much quicker than slower, hard-hitting attacks). The aforementioned cap is a 90% damage reduction, regardless of the mod's level. Finally, there is no limit to the number of damage types you can adapt to at once, but each buff will disappear after a set time if you don't get damaged again by the same damage type.
  • In XCOM 2: War of the Chosen, the eponymous villains gain new abilities in response to what XCOM uses against them.
  • In Black Geyser: Couriers of Darkness you have the Adaptive Shapeshift spell which transforms the caster into a creature best suited for a given situation, for example casting it with low hp turns you into a Forest Troll with a Healing Factor, casting it after being hit with ice attacks several times in a row transforms you into an Ice Jotunn with cold resistance, if both of the above are true you become an Ice Troll etc.

  • Oberon from the Webcomic Killroy and Tina would always come back with the properties of whatever "killed" him. The only way to permanently kill him is to throw him into a black hole (so he comes back as nothing). Unfortunately, he falls into a star instead. Just think, if the series hadn't been cruelly abandoned, something might have come of it.
  • Aylee from Sluggy Freelance gains new features to shore up weaknesses in her previous forms , although her adaptations may involve spending months in a cocoon to grow the required feature(s).
  • Grrl Power has minor villain "For Whom The Death Tolls", who dresses like a comic-book villain (skull mask, cowl, cape, and garish coloring) in part because this is his power set. Any attack made against him grants him a power to counter that attack perfectly — sapping Anvil's strength, absorbing Jiggawatt entirely, pushing her electric-form through Stalwart, etc. However, this has the limitation in that he can only manifest counters to a certain number of attacks at once, and only when he's attacked — too many powers to counter will result in at least one blow making it through, and not attacking him at all renders his power useless.
    Sydney: Nemesis made it look like he had every power, but he only had any power. Big difference.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation
    • SCP-682 ("Hard-to-Destroy Reptile") is a reptilian regenerating Omnicidal Maniac who also possesses this power. They try to shoot out its eyes, it grows several new sets covered in armor plating. They try to poison it, it starts spraying out jets of high-pressure blood to get the poison out. Thankfully, the adaptations wear off after a short while. This is the main reason they refuse to use nuclear weapons on it: if it survives, it'll be immune to pretty much anything. The Foundation once tried to kill it by using an SCP with the power to change the universal constants of physics within its boundaries. 682 not only adapted to survive as it always does, it found the experience fun.
    • SCP-1550 ("Dr. Wondertainment's Custom-Pets™"). When their eggs (called Adapto-Eggs) are placed in a certain environment, they will hatch into a creature suited for that environment, e.g. putting one in water will cause it to develop gills and flipper-like tails. Although putting the eggs somewhere inhospitable (e.g. a vat of molten iron) will destroy them.
  • Brennus has Desolation-In-Light and her sister Gloom Glimmer have the power to posses several superpowers appropriate to the situation.
  • Twig: Sylvester is regularly injected with a cocktail of venoms and toxins which have this effect on his brain by boosting his brain plasticity, effectively enabling him to rapidly increase his skills in an area he focuses on at the cost of long-term memory loss and deterioration in areas he doesn't focus on. He uses it to adapt his skillset to fill the role he needs to fill in his team, most frequently as The Social Expert.
  • Taerel Setting: The kin'toni "adapt to the land around them" with mutations, such as the blind, albino Minemi Kin'toni Clan (adapted to caves), the albino Phuis Kin'toni Clan (another cave clan), and the deep sea water-adapted Tiess Kin'toni Clan, who have gills and are (again) blind.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Your own immune system adapts to infections. A vaccine is a weakened sample of a virus, your immune system uses it to learn how to combat the non-weakened version. As a result, you are unlikely to get any particular virus more than once. Chicken pox is a classic example, and since it's much more dangerous to adults, it's recommended to expose kids (or, better, to vaccinate them) to reduce the chance that they'll get it after they grow up. But this also works the other way, since some diseases evolve too quickly for immunity to last very long. This is why new flu shots are issued each year to keep up with new strains.
    • Inverted by the original antigenic sin where a prior mismatched infection makes the future related infection significantly worse.
  • Other parts of our body respond to damage by rebuilding the affected tissues and structures with greater strength. Repeatedly damaged skin forms calluses. Exercise causes muscle damage and stress, so the muscles rebuild with greater strength. Damaged bone will rebuild itself with greater density.
    • Some martial artists train themselves by striking at hard things. This will damage their bones, which rebuild. This leads to people who can smash bricks with their heads and have skeletons visibly different. Serious Muay Thai kickboxers kick trees.
      • Overdoing it tends to leave the practitioner with serious health problems later in life, as the body simply cannot cope with the stress. However, with no stress on bones and muscles at all (such as happens without gravity) leads to them turning brittle, weak and ultimately non-serviceable. Like all things, best utilized in moderation.
  • Any population of organisms evolve. The word "evolution" is older than the concept of biological evolution. This is slow, noticeable changes to the environment usually take several generations at least.
    • Bacteria reproduce quickly, and evolve quickly as a result. Biologists study bacterial evolution in a lab because they don't have to wait too long for the results. Bacteria can also develop resistance to antibiotics quickly — which is why doctors tell you to finish your entire antibiotics prescription instead of stopping when you feel better. If you finish it all, there's a good chance you've wiped all the bacteria out. If you don't finish the prescription, you may leave some of the hardiest individuals alive to reproduce, making the next antibiotic treatment less effective.
      • So when you're taking antibiotics, think of the bacteria as your typical shonen hero, and antibiotics as your signature move. Wipe them out before they can learn to counter your signature move.
      • More to the point, don't stop to gloat when you've got them on the ropes — just kill them.
    • Sex is essentially an adaptive ability; it is believed to have evolved as a trait because it enhances variation and makes species much more robust. While wholly asexual organisms, like bacteria, avoid the inconvenience of having to mate, organisms that can both reproduce asexually and sexually will always evolve faster through sex. Asexual species can only evolve by mutating during a single generation or by errors during replication, while sexual species have the mutations/replication errors of all the parents, plus the randomized factor of which gametes are brought into the new generation. The fact that asexuality pretty much doesn't exist beyond a certain level of complexity (mammals and birds are incapable of it, it is very rare in fish and amphibians/reptiles and only as an emergency backup plan to stabilize a population, and even most plants and protists prefer sexual reproduction if they can get it) supports the benefits of this approach.
    • Viruses, to the degree that they qualify as 'organisms', evolve even faster than bacteria. The seasonal flu is essentially an endless game of cat-and-mouse between flu outbreaks and the adaptive immune system (with pharmacy and flu vaccines having recently joined the fight on our side), with the flu evolving new strains in order to re-infect those who have grown immune to last year's strain.
  • Humanity itself is also like this, compared to most other animals: Due to a human's ability to figure out what to use and construct whatever is necessary to survive, the ability to change an environment to make living easier, and the unique accumulation of knowledge and instructions between individuals and across generations, humans have been able to live in a greater variety of environments and subdue a greater number of other animal species than almost anything else on Earth, and anything with even more cosmopolitan distribution achieved it through human actions.


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Alternative Title(s): Viva La Evolution



Despite having only just been created, Adam is so sophisticated that he is capable of adapting and grow stronger the longer he faces conflict.

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / AdaptiveAbility

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